Saudi Arabia has earmarked inbound tourism as one of the main industries to replace its reliance on oil production in the coming years – with its authorities stating that “tourism is the new oil”.
The kingdom is already planning to expand its initial target of attracting 100 million annual visitors by 2030. That target was set in 2016.
Last year, Saudi Arabia attracted more visitors than Dubai – 16.5 million international tourists versus the Emirates’ 14.5 million. When domestic holidaymakers were added, Saudi had tourist figures of nearly 80 million last year.
Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market tourism expo in Dubai, Saudi Tourism Authority chief executive Fahd Hamidaddin said: “The target is too low and it will increase. Today, that target no longer works. From the very get-go, domestic tourism was always part of that target. At the time it was set, we had no idea just how strong domestic tourism would respond. We all thought numbers would drop after Covid, but it has only grown.
“Domestic audiences, a few years ago, didn’t realise they had all of this on their front doorstep. They used to focus on Jeddah and Riyadh but now people are more adventurous. That will happen as well with international visitors.”
The Saudi Tourism Authority is targeting 60% of future tourism coming from international, or inbound, visitors.
Accommodation will expand, in parallel, with currently 315,000 new hotel rooms planned across the kingdom by 2030; which would outstrip Dubai’s total.